Swim­ming, yoga, ten­nis — how to get the most out of your choice of ex­er­cise

Irish Independent - - People & Features - Swim­ming Karl Henry Yoga/Pi­lates/tai chi: Ten­nis

Wel­come to the third week of my Fit af­ter Fifty se­ries. We’ve had a great re­ac­tion to last week’s col­umn and the key takeaway mes­sage was re­ally that you have to work hard enough to get the re­sults you are look­ing for and also you have to find a form of ex­er­cise that works for you, one that you en­joy and con­sider fun.

By find­ing a fun ac­tiv­ity, you are far more likely to stick with it. To get the ben­e­fits and by work­ing hard enough, you will con­tin­u­ously im­prove your fit­ness lev­els, which is so cru­cial as you age, re­duc­ing your risk of age-re­lated health prob­lems.

Last week and this week, we are look­ing at the most com­mon forms of ex­er­cises that the over-50s might con­sider. Last week we ex­plored the ben­e­fits of cy­cling, jog­ging and walk­ing — this week, we’ll shine a spot­light on three more, giv­ing you all the in­for­ma­tion you need to know to en­sure you are do­ing it prop­erly.

Swim­ming is fan­tas­tic for your health. Be­cause the water pro­vides sup­port for the body, it’s what we call a non-weight­bear­ing form of ex­er­cise.

That makes it a great choice for peo­ple suf­fer­ing from arthri­tis, os­teo­poro­sis, back trou­ble and other joint is­sues, as there are so many dif­fer­ent forms of ex­er­cise you can do in the water.

The im­por­tant point to re­mem­ber is you have to find the form of swim­ming that suits you best. For ex­am­ple, walk­ing the pool is a great way to im­prove your leg and hip strength; front crawl and back crawl are great for your over­all body; whereas the breast stroke can place un­nec­es­sary pres­sure on your lower back. So see what works best for you. And as al­ways, if it doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it.

The uni­ver­sal rule of work­ing hard to get the ben­e­fits re­ally ap­plies in the pool. You should aim to get your­self slightly out of breath, but be able to still have a con­ver­sa­tion.

By do­ing this, you are get­ting the aer­o­bic ben­e­fits from the ses­sion, en­abling the heart and lungs to im­prove.

Aqua-aer­o­bics is another great form of water-based ex­er­cise, pro­vid­ing a re­sis­tance and car­dio­vas­cu­lar work­out in the pool with a qual­i­fied in­struc­tor.

It’s also a great way to so­cialise, es­pe­cially in the dark win­ter months when be­ing out­doors isn’t all that ap­peal­ing.

One thing is for sure, as you age, your body will stiffen up, you will be­come tighter and be at an in­creased risk of mus­cle dam­age and mus­cle pain that can be eas­ily pre­vented by a lit­tle stretch­ing-based ex­er­cise. And this is es­pe­cially true when it comes to back pain.

So it’s no sur­prise that yoga and Pi­lates have never been more pop­u­lar. They ba­si­cally chal­lenge the body to stretch and progress through a se­quence of ex­er­cises.

I my­self do a pri­vate yoga class once a week and have found it re­ally good for my flex­i­bil­ity and for my all-round men­tal health too.

The pos­i­tive en­dor­phin rush that comes with other forms of ex­er­cise comes from th­ese too and they can be far more gen­tle on the body yet yield great ben­e­fits too.

My best ad­vice is to look for a class that isn’t too big, has a teacher who is en­gaged in your tech­nique and helps you to en­sure you are do­ing it cor­rectly as op­posed to just fo­cus­ing on them­selves.

You should al­ways feel safe and se­cure in a class and be cor­rected if you are do­ing some­thing wrong. If you aren’t, then it’s time to find another class.

The num­ber of my older clients that have taken up ten­nis in the past year has in­creased by 75pc and watch­ing the ben­e­fits they have gained from it, I couldn’t not in­clude it in this col­umn. Ten­nis is great for your body, your bones, your mind and your so­cial life. The so­cial com­po­nent is so im­por­tant, it makes the ex­er­cise so much eas­ier to do all year round. Any of the racket sports will be great for your body, but also your co-or­di­na­tion too, es­pe­cially if you are that lit­tle bit com­pet­i­tive.

Look­ing back over the forms of ex­er­cise we’ve put un­der the spot­light, it be­comes clear that al­most any form of ex­er­cise will ben­e­fit you in some way as you grow older.

And while there are lots of dif­fer­ent routes to im­prov­ing your fit­ness, what’s re­ally im­por­tant is that you find one you know you en­joy and will want to keep do­ing.

Then make sure you have been shown how to do it prop­erly and never be afraid to ask for help.

Fi­nally, just en­sure you are work­ing hard enough but not too hard, us­ing your breath­ing rate to mon­i­tor this. This sim­ple guide will en­sure ex­er­cise works for you, at any age.

Next week: Just how of­ten should you be ex­er­cis­ing and for how long?

Karl Henry has the an­swers

Your flex­i­ble friend: Make sure your yoga in­struc­tor cor­rects your pos­ture if you’re get­ting itwrong

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